REVEALED AT LAST: The Hunt-Bottomley link

The one-word secret of Hunt’s success:


His relationship to Virginia Bottomley…..his dealings with the British Council….his inheritance of the SW Surrey constituency….his father’s history in UK Health provision….the Health interests for whom Bottomley now works….his capture of the Health portfolio in the recent reshuffle.

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Throughout his career, Jeremy Hunt’s advancement somehow always seemed to involve his path crossing that of the former Virginia Bottomley, known since 2005 as Baroness Nettlestone. Now – with the help of some initial sleuthing by regular Slogger Jackie – I can offer readers a big clue: they are cousins. Laid out below (for anyone with any feeling for the importance of meritocracy) is how still, in 2012, career progress of the type admired by David Cameron – “the leg up” – is alive and well. One where the right tie, who you know, and above all a well-connected family, are all you need to prosper.

 Having studied the modus operandi of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for some eighteen months now, the most striking thing about him is a penchant for toughing out any and all criticisms with a bare face. Almost nothing uttered in public by this man is ever anything other than an embellishment, or a distortion, or a boldly stated but clearly inaccurate statement: “I gave full disclosure”, “I have done nothing wrong”, “It was a purely fact-finding mission” and so forth.

Today at the Conservative Party conference, Hunt excelled himself by suggesting to his audience that his father “worked as a manager for the NHS”. It is an exaggeration served with lashings of deception: Sir Nicholas John Streynsham Hunt (Daddy) was Admiral of the Fleet in his main career and, once retired, became a quangoista par excellence. He was Chairman of the South West Surrey District Health Authority from 1990 to 1995 and then Chairman of Nuffield Hospitals from 1996 to 2001.

Ring any bells? The clues are ‘South West Surrey’, ‘Health’ and ‘Nuffield’. And it might not be too hard to imagine where he got the assist into those cosy sinecures: for not long previously, his niece Virginia Bottomley had been….Minister of Health.

Admiral Sir John had an elder brother (now carefully airbrushed out of the Wikipedias and other genealogies), one Roland Colin Charles Hunt. He married Hilda Pauline Garnett, whose brother was W. John Garnett. WJG had a daughter called Hilda Brunette Maxwell Garnett….aka, Virginia Bottomley.

Virginia Bottomley eventually became MP for South West Surrey.

Ring any bells? Ah yes, that’ll be the same South West Surrey for which her cousin Jeremy Hunt became MP when Virginia decided to quit open politics and become a quangoista…just like her uncle the Admiral of the Fleet.

And this wasn’t the first time La Bottomley had been helpful to cousin Jeremy. She’d joined infamous quango The British Council. And it might not be too hard to imagine where Jezzer got the assist into becoming a monopoly supplier to the British Council with his company Hotcourses.

Nor would it involve much of a lateral leap in thought to understand how – after Hotcourses completely cocked up the first job it did for the Council – an elaborate system of shelf companies and oddly-headed invoices enabled Jeremy to carry on secretly being a preferred monopoly supplier to The British Council for the next five years…on the back of which he amassed the fortune of which he is so proud today.

Then Virginia moved upwards into Another House, becoming Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone in 2005 – handing her seat to Jeremy Hunt as if it might be a family heirloom. Hunt was duly elected, and South West Surrey thus became a Rotten Borough.

This is what Baroness Nettlestone mainly gets up to in the Lords: she lobbies on behalf of the private health sector via her directorship of BUPA. She must’ve been a shoe-in for that little earner, she having been Health Secretary in charge of the public sector an’ all…but then, probably Uncle Admiral’s contacts at Nuffield helped. You know how these things work.

Right then….private health lobbying, and a creeping pauperisation of NHS hospitals by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. But Andrew was a bit accident-prone – rather like his Cabinet colleague Jeremy Hunt, who partnered Newscorp in his educational supplies business, went to New York to broker a change of Newscorp’s Party preference from Labour to Tory, and then was quite coincidentally put in charge of adjudicating on the Newscorp bid for BSkyB. As we all know, that ended in tears.

But Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt didn’t go down a snake like the luckless Lansley. He went two rungs up the ladder to become….Secretary of State for Health. To paraphrase the old Lord Robert Cecil gag about ‘Bob’s yer uncle’ it seems the only way is up if Ginny’s yer cousin. As I blogged yesterday, Cameron didn’t want to give Jezzer the job. But Mr Hunt appears to have three very strong holds on the Prime Minister.

First, he is very – like I mean extremely – well in at Newscorp. “Jeremy is our man now: don’t mess with him”. Second, he is bankrolled by murky mega-donor JHJ Lewis – Chairman of the Groucho Club (a media-luvvie venue proven to have illegally recorded the coke-snorting antics of its celebrity customers) and influential eminence grise in the Conservative Party. And third, he has the influence and contacts via Bottomley to oil wheels here and there in the gradual sale of an insolvent NHS to organisation like – and here I’m only offering suggestions of course – BUPA and Nuffield.

So there’s Jeremy newly installed as Health Secretary after just seven short years as an MP. This is a summary of his meteoric rise:

He made a fortune at the taxpayers’ expense as monopoly supplier to a notorious quango where, by happy coincidence, his cousin sat on the Board. He became MP for SW Surrey where, by happy coincidence, his cousin had been MP previously. He became Minister in charge of Media & Culture where, by happy coincidence, he wound up steering his pals at Newscorp in the right direction. And he became Health Secretary partly because, by happy coincidence, his cousin is a lobbyist for the private health sector.

The Conservative Party claims to be all about the Bonfire of the Quangos, the Party where everyone who wants to work hard can get an even break, and the Big Society. But its members, acolytes and backers remain what they’ve always been: a small Secret Society where who is far more important than what you know. Hilariously, Virginia Bottomley has described herself as “a one-nation” Conservative. Well I guess we now know which of Disraeli’s two nations she was talking about.

Sadly, ‘Red’ Ed’s flimsy attempt to take on the mantle of Benjamin Dizziband last week is no kind of alternative to the privatisation and commercial exploitation of Westminster by the Tory Party’s mates in big business and banking. The Ed Miller Band too has its UNITE mates who must be satisfied, its largely pro-Labour immigrants who must be loved up, its teachers who resist real educational reform, and its public sector employees who vote Labour by a margin of two to one.

The truth is that none of our triumvirate of Westminster Parties has the majority citizen in mind when formulating policy. The Libdems represent slavish support for Brussels and all its works. Labour thinks equality is about affirmative, favouritist action for noisy minorities. And the Tories think they work for anyone with money and power. Brick by brick, the Wall of Class knocked down during the 1950s has been replaced by the Barrier of Influence in the 21st century. Merit? It doesn’t even get a look in. Decency? That’s for wimps.

All this disgusting graft, influence and interest-group manipulation can only be ended by banning all monied political lobbying and all political Party contributions, whatever their size. I repeat, the State must fund all political Parties and keep commerce out: it is the only way our once great and respected political culture can be revived.

I would urge all those reading this piece to examine the evidence presented as to the character of Our Jeremy at The Slog’s dedicated page, Hunt Balls.

 I think the time may have come for an all-voter petition demanding the removal of Mr Hunt from the Health Secretaryship.

 Related in a rather vomit-inducing way: why the forces ranged against Cameron will prove irresistible